Soil microbes play critical roles in plant health. They are essential for plant nutrition and resistance to stress in natural environments. They are thus key actors in low input agriculture. Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi are found in all soils and can interacts with most plant species, including crops.

They are known to improve both plant nutrition and resistance to stresses. However, efficacy of this symbiosis depends on both plant and fungal genetic factors. Moreover, communities of AM fungi are modulated by agricultural practices.

Our research aims to better understand the molecular mechanisms that explain the variability of arbuscular mycorrhiza efficacy to stimulate plant growth and resistance to stresses.


The arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) symbiosis : Most plants including cereals form an endosymbiosis with AM fungi belonging to the group of Glomeromycota. AM fungi are beneficial for plant nutrition because of their ability to colonize both soil and roots and gather nutrients from a much larger soil volume than plant roots.

AM fungi penetrate root cortical cells and exchange nutrients through structures called arbuscules. AM fungi provide soil nutrients (phosphorus, nitrogen and other nutrients) to plants and benefit from fixed carbon (photosynthates) from the plants through carbohydrate and lipid transfers. AM fungi can also protect plants from biotic and abiotic stresses. This interaction is described as a mutualistic symbiosis, however AM efficacy on plant growth and/or plant resistance to stresses depends on both plant and AM fungal genotypes. We are interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms which influence the plant colonization by AM fungi and mycorrhizal responses.



A tomato root colonized by a strain of the AM fungus Rhizophagus irregularis. The fungus is stained by ink (blue). Arrows show arbuscules. Arrowheads show extraradical hyphae.

Objective 1 : To evaluate effects of agricultural practices on AM fungal diversity and efficacy to stimulate plant growth. To address this objective, we perform sampling of wheat (durum and bread wheat) grown under various agricultural practices and analyze the fungal communities associated with roots using high throughput DNA sequencing (metabacroding). We also isolate AM fungal strains associated with wheat roots and test their efficacy to stimulate wheat growth in controlled conditions.

Objective 2 : To identify molecular mechanisms involved in variability of plant benefit from AM fungi. To address this objective, we are investigating the genetic variability of the model grass Brachypodium distachyon and of wheat. This includes analysis of plant growth and transcriptional responses to AM fungi in various controlled environments, in particular with different nutrient availability.

For these two objectives, we use the Toulouse plant phenotyping platform to measure plant growth kinetics in the presence and the absence of AM fungi.

Analysis of growth response in the presence of an AM fungal strain in various B. distachyon ecotypes.

Symbiotic signals : Lipo-chitooligosaccharidic (LCO) and short chitooligosaccharidic (CO) produced by AM fungi are able to activate a host signalling pathway required for host colonization by AM fungi and are thus likely involved in mechanisms of host colonization.

Objective 3 : To determine the role of signal molecules produced by AM fungi in the establishment of the symbiosis. To address this objective, we are characterizing plant LCO and CO receptors belonging to the subfamily of Receptor-Like Kinases (RLKs) containing LysM domains through a combination of reverse genetic and biochemical approaches.

Plant models: Solanaceae (Nicotiana benthamiana, Petunia hybrida and Solanum lycopersicum) and Poaceae (Brachypodium distachyon, Triticum turgidum and Triticum aestivum).

Current funding

  • Project MYCOBLE (FSOV, 2021-2023), coordinator: B. Lefebvre

  • Project WHEATSYM (ANR, 2017-2021), coordinator: B. Lefebvre

Past funding

  • Projet Stress'n'Sym (Institut Carnot Plant2Pro, 2017-2020), coordinator: B. Lefebvre

  • Project DIBAM (SPE INRA, 2018-2019), coordinator: B. Lefebvre

  • Projet RHIZOWHEAT (IDEX ATS, 2016-2017), coordinator: C. Masson (LIPM)

  • Projet SPE (INRA, 2014-2015), coordinator: J. Cullimore (LIPM)

  • Projet LCOinNONLEGUMES (ANR young scientist, 2011-2014), coordinator: B. Lefebvre

  • PICS (CNRS, 2011-2012), coordinator: B. Lefebvre



  • (Preprint) Bartoli C, Boivin S, Marchetti M, Gris C, Gasciolli V, Gaston M, Auriac MC, Cottret L, Carlier A, Masson-Boivin C, Lepetit M and Lefebvre B. Rhizobium leguminosarum symbiovar viciae strains are natural wheat endophytes and can stimulate root development and colonization by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi. BioRxiv; DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.07.241844

  • (Preprint) Maviane-Macia F, Ribeyre C, Buendia L, Gaston M, Khafif M, Devoilles F, Peeters N and Lefebvre B. Experimental system and image analysis software for high throughput phenotyping of mycorrhizal growth response in Brachypodium distachyon. BioRxiv; DOI: 10.1101/779330

  • Du D, Zhang C, Xing Y, Lu X, Cai L, Yun H, Zhang Q, Zhang Y, Chen X, Liu M, Sang X, Ling Y, Yang Z, Li Y, Lefebvre B and He G. 2020 The CC-NB-LRR OsRLR1 mediates rice disease resistance through interaction with OsWRKY19. Plant Biotechnol J, in press; DOI:  10.1111/pbi.13530 

  • Lefebvre B. 2020. An opportunity to breed rice for improved benefits from the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis? New Phytol, 225:1404-1406; DOI:  10.1111/nph.16333 

  • Girardin A, Wang T, Ding Y, Keller J, Buendia L, Gaston M, Ribeyre C, Gasciolli V, Auriac MC, Vernié T, Bendahmane A, Ried MK, Parniske M, Vandenbussche M, Schorderet M, Reinhardt D, Delaux PM, Bono JJ and Lefebvre B. 2019. LCO receptors involved in arbuscular mycorrhiza are functional for rhizobia perception in legumes. Current Biol, 29: 4249-4259; DOI:  10.1016/j.cub.2019.11.038

  • Buendia L, Ribeyre C, Bensmihen S, Lefebvre B. 2019. Brachypodium distachyon tar2lhypo mutant shows reduced root developmental response to symbiotic signal but increased arbuscular mycorrhiza. Plant Signal Behav 14: e1651608; DOI:  10.1080/15592324.2019.1651608

  • Buendia L., Maillet F., O’Connor D., van de-Kerkhove Q., Danoun S., Gough C., Lefebvre B. and Bensmihen S. 2019. LCOs promote lateral root formation and modify auxin homeostasis in Brachypodium distachyon. New Phytol, 221: 2190-2202; DOI:  10.1111/nph.15551

  • Buendia L., Girardin A., Wang T., Cottret L. and Lefebvre B. 2018 LysM Receptor-Like Kinase and LysM Receptor-Like Protein Families: An Update on Phylogeny and Functional Characterization. Front. Plant Sci. 9:1531; DOI:  10.3389/fpls.2018.01531

  • Gough C., Cottret L., Lefebvre B. and Bono JJ. 2018. Evolutionary History of Plant LysM Receptor Proteins Related to Root Endosymbiosis. Front Plant Sci. 9:923; DOI:  10.3389/fpls.2018.00923

  • Lefebvre B. 2017. Arbuscular mycorrhiza: A new role for N-acetylglucosamine. Nature Plants 3, 17085; DOI:  10.1038/nplants.2017.85 

  • Vernié T., Camut S., Camps C., Rembliere C., de Carvalho-Niebel F., Mbengue M., Timmers T., Gasciolli V., Thompson R., Le Signor C., Lefebvre B., Cullimore J. and Hervé C. 2016. PUB1 interacts with the receptor kinase DMI2 and negatively regulates rhizobial and arbuscular mycorrhizal symbioses through its ubiquitination activity in Medicago truncatula. Plant Physiol, 170: 2312-2324; DOI:  10.1104/pp.15.01694

  • Buendia L., Wang T., Girardin A.  and Lefebvre B. 2016. The LysM receptor-like kinase SlLYK10 regulates the arbuscular mycorrhizal symbiosis in tomato. New Phytol 210, 184-195; DOI:  10.1111/nph.13753

  • Pietraszewska-Bogiel A., Lefebvre B., Koini M.A., Klaus-Heisen D., Takken F.L.W., Geurts R., Cullimore J.V and Gadella T.W.J. 2013. Interaction of Medicago truncatula Lysin motif receptor-like kinases, NFP and LYK3, produced in Nicotiana benthamianaleaf induces a defence-like response. PlosOne 8(6):e65055; DOI:  10.1371/journal.pone.0065055

  • Lefebvre B, Klaus-Heisen D, Pietraszewska-Bogiel A, Hervé C, Camut S, Auriac MC, Gasciolli V, Nurisso A, Gadella TW, Cullimore J. 2012. Role of N-glycosylation sites and CxC motifs in trafficking of Medicago truncatula Nod Factor Perception protein to plasma membrane. J Biol Chem 287: 10812-10823; DOI:  10.1074/jbc.M111.281634

  • Klaus-Heisen, D., Nurisso, A., Pietraszewska-Bogiel, A., Mbengue, M., Camut, S., Timmers, T., Pichereaux, C., Rossignol, M., Gadella, T.W.J., Imberty, A., Lefebvre, B., Cullimore, J.V. 2011. Structure-function similarities between a plant receptor-like kinase and the human interleukin-1 receptor-associated kinase-4. J Biol Chem 286: 11202-11210; DOI:  10.1074/jbc.M110.186171

  • Mbengue, M., Camut, S., de Carvalho-Niebel, F., Deslandes, L., Froidure, S., Klaus-Heisen, D., Moreau, S., Rivas, S., Timmers, T., Hervé, C., Cullimore, J., Lefebvre, B. 2010. The Medicago truncatula E3 ubiquitin ligase PUB1 interacts with the LYK3 symbiotic receptor and negatively regulates infection and nodulation. Plant Cell 22: 3474-3488; DOI:  10.1105/tpc.110.075861

  • Lefebvre, B., Timmers, T., Mbengue, M., Moreau, S., Hervé, C., Tóth, K., Bittencourt-Silvestre, J., Klaus, D., Deslandes, L., Godiard, L., Murray, J.D., Udvardi, M.K., Raffaele, S., Mongrand, S., Cullimore, J., Gamas, P., Niebel, A. and Ott, T. 2010. A remorin protein interacts with symbiotic receptors and regulates bacterial infection. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 107: 2343-2348; DOI:  10.1073/pnas.0913320107